Retrospective. A little Saab for everyone.

The companies with the most ingenious ideas do not always prevail on the market. History is full of examples. Because if it were different, Saab, for example, would still exist. The small, always innovative brand from Sweden reached its peak in the late 80s and early 90s. Then what can be described as democratization occurred. There was a little bit of Saab for everyone.

Flank protection in the Saab 9000. Not only for North America, but for all countries in series
Flank protection in the Saab 9000. Not only for North America, but for all countries in series.


A little Saab for everyone.

This is the title of the Saab-Euro magazine in issue number 4 in the year 1991. The IAA in Frankfurt is history, the Swedes have shown with the 9000 CS the evolution of their successful upper-class model. And found that own innovations are increasingly found in vehicles of the competition. Audi introduces the new 100. The C4, which will later become the first A6, is an important step in the rise of the brand. And he has for the first time at the Ingolstadt a standard flank protection in the doors. A feature that has long been standard for Saab. And also Opel, Mitsubishi and VW follow suit. However, with many manufacturers, including almost all European premium suppliers, the flank protection is reserved only for the US market.

And while the Swedes were already installing the aspherical curved exterior mirror in series 10 years earlier, it will only be celebrating its premiere at Audi with the new 100. Also at VW, for an extra charge, in the new Golf. It is no coincidence that Saab ideas spread to Ingolstadt, because developers from the 9000 team have meanwhile moved to southern Germany.

Flank protection, pollen filter, belt tensioner.

Also the dust and pollen filter, in a Saab already since 1978 in series, spreads 91 on a broad front. BMW supplies the filter in the 5er with air conditioning as standard, for the new Golf III and Astra, after all, has a simple version. The Japanese? None. After all, Mazda celebrates the pollen filter for some models for retrofitting. And also the belt tensioner, available since 1989 at Saab and 1990 at Mercedes, presents itself to the IAA in the Astra and Golf III. However, not controlled by an explosive charge, but mechanically and thus cheaper.

Let's stay with Opel. The German provider benefits from the fresh marriage with the Swedes and is acquiring turbo know-how. The highly regarded Calibra Turbo was on the Hessen stand in 1991. 204 hp, 16 high-tech valves. Also environmentally friendly with a preheated lambda probe developed by Saab directly behind the exhaust manifold.

For some other details, the Swedes are still lonely, as the Saab magazine regretfully notes. The Latent heat storage, which reduces the pollutants dramatically at engine start, there are still only in a Saab. Likewise, the CFC-free air conditioning, the 1991 but already found at suppliers such as Behr Automotive, and will continue to spread in the following years.

A bit of Saab can still be found in every car today. At Göta Älv, on the other hand, the slow decline began in the mid-90s. A prescribed forced relegation, one has to say. GM refuses to make the necessary investments and tries to bring the Swedes into line. Not always with success. After the much noticed 900 II, the last hatchback with several innovations, the new models are more and more adapted to the mainstream. Sedan and station wagon instead of hatchback, the luxury class will no longer be served with the phasing out of the 9000. Although the ingenuity of the engineers shimmers through again and again until the end, it is no longer as impressive as in the early 90s, when Saab ideas were spread across an entire industry.

24 thoughts on "Retrospective. A little Saab for everyone."

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    ... and thankfully the overlapping edge has been continued for a long time, as well as the extra-stable A-pillar bracing. Decisive for the developers at Saab were not so much plausible features but real occupant accident protection: in serious accidents with Saab involvement, a team was dispatched to check which constructive measures could be used to reduce the consequences of the accident in the future - and this was then implemented. Other manufacturers were rather uninterested in the further development of their existing model range. I particularly remember an IAA at the end of the 80s: a Porsche in the USA cost significantly more than in Europe - a company specialized in converting them for import into the USA: the most important criterion for registration in the USA was the installation of the apparently unimportant flank protection for Europe ...
    ... and for the development of the ingenious Saab seats, by the way, an orptopedist was always taken on board - that was also a matter of course for Saab and was unfortunately not exploited in large-format advertisements.

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    The first SAAB already had a kind of side impact protection; the doors were pulled over the threshold. The actual successor variant was 1972 in the SAAB 99 in series with a square steel tube.

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    What is that called again in Ingolstadt? Lead by technology ? Aha ... .. is clear.
    The 9000 will (for me) always be the best Saab Trollhättan has ever known. Simply an incredibly well thought-out car!

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      TALLADEGA ...

      … Means Waterloo in Ingolstadt (and Stuttgart). Only in Trollhättan does it mean Olympus.

      Again and again sad that the SAAB story took after a legendary rise the course of a Greek tragedy. Part of the story (and the tragedy) is that you were probably too good too soon.

      The last two 9000 drivers I addressed were first-time owners. People who have done a new car and could do it again and again, but simply did not want and still do not want. People who are firmly convinced that the 9000 is the best car they have ever had and that there has not been a better one on the market since.

      The car was years ahead of its time. With the 9000, SAAB thought of everything that was going on in automotive engineering back then. Only one very important detail has been forgotten: the obsolescence that would be needed at some point in order to be able to sell the next SAAB to an enthusiastic SAAB driver ...

      Too soon too good.

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        Well, a few small things have forgotten the Saab people, such as the height adjustment of the steering wheel. This annoys me today every day when I get in.

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          Forgotten or not found necessary, that is the question.

          The axial adjustment of the steering wheel up to 50 mm was as standard as the multiple adjustment of one of the best driver seats in the history of automotive engineering. Ergonomic complaints about the 9000 have a rarity even without height adjustment of the steering wheel.

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      If you take a closer look, the slogan 'Vorsprung durch Technik' comes from NSU and was conceived for the advertising campaign for the Ro80. The then Auto Union almost inherited it through the merger with NSU AG, along with a few other things.

      Interestingly, it is nowadays more positively associated with Audi rather than negatively with the Wankel engine. This should not be a rating of the Ro80, but only his sales figures. This may be considered good work by the marketing department.

      It shows just the influence of advertising, although Saab has also made beautiful advertising. Partly with subtle humor, but unfortunately not nearly as mass compatible.

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    I would have liked to see the premiere of the 9000 live

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    Definitely there was the flank protection in the doors on the 240 Volvo. 1000 244 DLS vehicles were delivered as special vehicles in the GDR for the population. That was a condition for the fact that the GDR government got the 264 class Volvo battleships with 6 cylinder (For Honekers drive from Wandlitz into the Stastaratgebäude in the today's center). For the Swedes had demanded a decrease of 1000 custom-made Volvo 244 DLS. My parents had an 10 year registration for a new car and actually wanted a LADA 1500 or similar. The seller in the only dealership in East Berlin Unter den Linden said that the last Volvos were still available. Said and done. It was 1977. I was 12 years and totally fascinated by the Swede and he had side impact protection in the flanks. That was something completely new.
    Since then I am an individualist in cars and landed at Saab. Decisive for me was the 9000 test with 100000 km non-stop. That was to be seen in Fernehen. Since then I have wanted an 9000er and drive Saab since 1993.

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      Funny, in the 1990s I actually had a GDR Volks-Volvo 244 EZ 1978 ...
      Mine had been sprayed with mustard yellow on dark blue. Body and appearance corresponded to the 6 cylinder (the 264), the engine (B21A with 100 PS) but was a frugal and rather weak 4 cylinder from the 244.

      As far as I know, this configuration only existed for socialist countries. As a cost-conscious student, I found it awesome, always felt sufficiently motorized, had an honest nameplate (244) on the rear and was happy about the “aristocratic” nose of the 6-cylinder (264) ...

      But even then, that didn't stop me from turning my head so much after every SAAB 900 Turbo Coupé or a 9000 Aero that it sometimes cracked my neck ...

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        Dear Herbert, ours was red. Unfortunately, my father sold the car for a Toyota Carina II after the fall of the Wall. What a disaster. I was angry with my father and still mourn the car today. Yes, the car was underpowered with 101 hp. The one with the 6-cylinder nose had something. I was always happy when I saw one. You could fill up what you wanted. When I was 19, I was allowed to drive to a DISCO in the country with my father's 244 and a friend who was also allowed to drive the same red 244 from his uncle that day. Unfortunately the gas stations were scarce in GDR times, especially at night. Since we hadn't found the discotheque and were wandering around, the beznin in the tank was running out. We then drove to a village at midnight (I think it was Rietz-Neuendorf near Lübben) and rang the doorbell in one of the few courtyards where the light was still on. There we young boys and girls stood with “our” 2 red 244 DLS and asked for petrol. The solidarity and mutual help was great at times in the East and the friendly, a little wondered man, sold us petrol, which he dumped from a large galvanized milk can into the tank. What exactly was in it (maybe 1: 1,5 mixture?) Was not clear. Anyway, the car drove and hopefully did not fall victim to the later scrapping bonus.

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          Great story! ! !
          Thanks a lot for this.

          Not only the readers' posts, the articles by Tom and the blog crew make this blog a pleasure. Again and again, there are such gems of comments that provide almost daily for reading material and fun.

          The solidary “gas station attendant” will certainly never have forgotten this episode. Two of them were almost a state visit. And that at midnight. Big cinema.

          If we're lucky, then our 244 long-nosed ones still drive somewhere abroad today. In D you see 7 humped volvos and 25 amazons before you hit an 240er from the 1970ern. But after all, younger 240ers are still pleasingly common.

          Still very, a shame about the fat and really very good bumpers of earlier model years. Too bad about the B21A, which is also considered indestructible and can probably really fill up everything, if it is only liquid and flammable. Who knows what was really in the milk can after all 😉

          But if I have it right in mind, the B21 came as Volvo's first turbo and then as the strongest production engine of the 240 in younger model variants in spite of the new B23 in honor again. Also a comfort. The biggest consolation is the own SAAB 😉 A return exchange of my SC with a 244 DLS I would not dream of.

          With a fully restored 245 Turbo (same usable but higher market value) I would probably start pondering ...

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            Thanks for these words. Yes, I and maybe the gas station attendant will remember it. Nice that I can share such memories and emotions in this blog. Thanks Tom for that! I am always happy to see a 240. But I will continue to drive my Saabs.

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            Incidentally, I have looked in Xeroom 2 years in autoscout times for a 3 DLS. As a repainted dark 244 DLS, formerly mustard yellow with 244 cylinder grill was offered. Must have been yours once. Well, I think it still runs today, probably in Poland.

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            I would be happy if it was still running somewhere ...

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    I have had a website or something similar in my head for a long time. around, which clearly lists and explains all SAAB innovations. Side impact protection, turbocharger, heated seats, NightPanel, asymmetrical speedometer, etc. Unfortunately, I am not able to build something like this, neither in terms of time nor technically. Or does such a collection already exist?

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      By the way, there is something like that on the website of the Saab Museum in English - and there were extra side impact protection elements in the doors from 1972 in the 99 ...

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    Unfortunately I can't find anything and can't provide a link to it. The same thing is everywhere on the net and it is wrong. Copy & paste ...

    The side impact protection is Swedish but already much older than all writing. Maybe Volvo has not called it SIPS from the beginning and not marketed 1991 rough and offensive enough? But I know from my own experience that Volvo has previously built high-strength cross braces in the doors in the 240.

    An accident vehicle of a friend, which was met on the driver's side exactly in both doors and thrown over, I personally inspected. The door panels had been pushed around by the accident opponents around the cross struts, so that they were clean and clear.

    Between the A- and C-pillars there was an acute-angled, flat triangle. The B-pillar was shifted in the direction of the passenger cell on the level of the floor group 15 to 20 cm.

    The acquaintance had a whiplash and a rib fracture.
    The causal and guilty accident opponent was dead.

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      Wikipedia is also not always a refuge for absolute knowledge, but it is often a good source of information. There it is mentioned in the article about the Volvo 140 in the section 'Technology and safety' that doors reinforced with steel tubes were available from model year 1973 (

      Now I just wanted to say that I quickly found no pictures or drawings on this topic, then I came up with an idea. Although not a production vehicle, but shows where the door braces come from Volvo:

      For a search for ESF or Experimental Safety Vehicles would be appropriate then Google. Since this goes back to an American idea, the door reinforcements may turn out to be an idea for our overseas friends ...

      Have fun googling.

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        Many thanks. That coincides exactly with my memories for up to a year ...

        I thought the side impact protection was “only” introduced at Volvo in 1974 with the 240 (which otherwise has the same doors as the 140). There was nothing like that on the 240. Now I know why ...

        And I also found something. In the article “Saab Automobile” there is the section “Examples of Saab developments”. This begins first with the “Ursaab (Saab 92)” and, secondly, actually right away with the first side impact protection in the history of automobile construction. This and a stable roof would have made “the first SAAB the safest car” of its time.

        The main reason that SAAB engineers paid particular attention to the stability of the passenger compartment was that every sixth car accident in Sweden was caused by a moose leaping sideways into or onto a passenger car.

        That should solve the riddle. The side impact protection is actually an overseas invention - but from our point of view only briefly across the Baltic Sea. Seen from the USA once across the pond ...

        What is amazing and inexplicable now is why other manufacturers, even in the premium segment, have spent half a century mimicking this simple and extremely effective idea?

        The fact that even the other Swedes (Volvo) took almost 30 years is explained by a different philosophy and different approaches. After WW II, the aeronauts from SAAB wanted light and safe vehicles at the same time and went their own way from the start. The heavier Volvos were already adequately armed against jumping over rutting moose and the weight of the vehicle was not a concern ...

        Only when the traffic density and thus side impacts increased by other vehicles, then you saw the need and the benefit of Volvo. But still nearly 20 years before the manufacturers in densely populated Germany, which had long shrugged his many road deaths accepted.
        The safety thinking of Sweden is truly legendary.

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          You've jogged my, imd back /

          In the early 1970's, I worked in London for an importer of German decent, a Mr Henry Kenley, who had come from Germany.

          I was a young boy, so who happened to be good at selling.
          Henry wanted to travel all over the UK. I was driving a Vauxhall Victor FD estate, which was troublesome and wanted a bigger estate. Henry would not let me think about Opel (!!) and I looked at Volvo 140 and Peugeot 504 estate.

          I remember the tubular bars in the doors of the Volvo brochure very clearly now you're mentioned it.

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    One forgets such details over time and takes them for granted. Was already a great brand, I still miss SAAB.

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    Among other things, precisely because of all these inventions and influences, but also through further work in the area of ​​safety, for example with the seats, or through the night panel or other more stylistic “quirks”, Saab has such a loyal fan base, right?


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